2010 was a pivotal year for Mohamed Elsonbaty, as he reached the finals of the first FameLab competition held in Egypt. Fuelled by inspiration from this experience, Mohamed took steps to develop a career in science communication. Today, Mohamed is established as a science communication consultant and journalist, sharing his passion for science with audiences all over the world.
FameLab was introduced to Egypt in 2009 to support the government’s efforts to advance science, and to help build a culture that understands and supports the positive role science plays in economic and social wellbeing.
Since its establishment, FameLab Egypt has captured the public imagination and has grown from strength-to-strength: in 2018, over 2000 young scientists and engineers applied to take part, and in 2019 the national final was staged against the awe-inspiring backdrop of the Pyramids.
‘FameLab has managed to build the capacities of science communicators in Egypt through masterclasses and other training opportunities,’ observes Mohamed. ‘It has also established an important network for science communication with FameLab Egypt finalists and other stakeholders with an interest in science – such as media professionals, policymakers, higher education leaders, as well as government and non-governmental organisations.’
Impact of FameLab on Mohamed’s career development
FameLab has had a profound impact on Mohamed: ‘If I am to choose the single most influential event in my entire life, it will be my participation in FameLab.’
He continues: ‘When entered FameLab, it was the first time I’d even heard about science communication. I was an undergraduate pharmacy student and was passionate about science - but I did not know that there are many ways in which to share this passion with others.’
‘Through FameLab, including the masterclass I took part in, I developed my skills in this area. And I had the opportunity to meet other finalists who shared this love for science and its communication.’
"FameLab is not just a competition where the winner represents her or his country in the International Finals at Cheltenham Science Festival only - it is a unique opportunity that can open a whole new world of possibilities on different levels."
After reaching the FameLab International Finals at Cheltenham Science Festival, Mohamed was motivated to deepen his understanding of science communication to develop his skills in this area. By later securing a Chevening Scholarship, Mohamed returned to the UK to undertake a master’s degree in science communication and public engagement – with FameLab UK and Egypt the focus of his thesis.
FameLab finalist turned masterclass trainer
Mohamed is now working as a science communication consultant and freelance science journalist. FameLab continues to help shape Mohamed’s career to this day through his role of FameLab masterclass trainer.
‘The journey from being a FameLab finalist to FameLab masterclass trainer was a personal goal,’ he says. ‘I wanted to help people to discover their own passions in communicating science, and to guide them to follow that passion.’
Sharing scientific research by speaking with relevance and clarity
Drawing on his experiences, Mohamed shares a couple of tips for scientists who would like to share their research with the public.
Firstly, he advises scientists and researchers to speak plainly: ‘Use clear and simple analogies and metaphors to explain your work, and avoid using scientific jargon.’
To engage your audience, the purpose and potential impact of any research should also be made clear: ‘If you tell people about your research in say, ‘synthesis and characterisation of gold nanoparticles in targeted drug delivery,’ do not expect them to be necessarily interested in that!’
He continues: ‘But if you just tell them that your research is about using gold to develop better medicines to cure disease, they will engage with this because it touches their own lives directly.'
It’s apt that Mohamed features a quote on his website from the British scientist Sir Mark Walport, which neatly sums up his personal and professional mission: ‘Science is not finished until it’s communicated.'
Follow Mohamed on Twitter: @ElsonbatySciCom
FameLab is a global competition started in 2005 by Cheltenham Science Festival to find and support the world's most talented new science communicators. Participants have three minutes to win over the judges and audience with a scientific talk that excels for its content, clarity and charisma.
Through a partnership with the British Council between 2007 - 2021, FameLab International became the world’s leading science communication competition, with the participation of more than 40,000 young scientists, mathematicians and engineers in over 40 countries.